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Paris Dakar Rally

The Paris Dakar Rally (or "The Dakar") is an annual, organized, professional off-road race. The race is currently sponsored by Total and organized by TSO, the Thierry Sabine Organization. Despite its name, it is an off-road endurance race rather than a conventional rally - the terrain the competitors traverse is much tougher and the vehicles used are true off-road vehicles rather than the modified sedans used in rallies.

Most of the competitive sections ("stages" or "specials") are off-road, over dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, erg, etc; and vary from several kilometers to several hundred kilometers per day.

History
The race originated in 1978, a year after racer Thierry Sabine got lost in the desert, and decided this would be a good location for a regular rally. Historically, the rally originally was from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal; however due to politics and other factors, the course as well as the origin and destination have varied. The 2002 course was from Arras, France (near Paris), through Madrid, Spain, to Dakar. The 2000 course was from Dakar to Cairo, Egypt. Early rallies passed through Algeria, now considered one of the most inhospitable countries on earth as regards foreigners.

Vehicles and Classes
The three major competitive classes of the Dakar are motorcycles, automobiles (small trucks) and large trucks. Many vehicle manufacturers use the Dakar as an opportunity to demonstrate the durability of their vehicles, though most vehicles are hevily modified. Originally, (mostly) European utility vehicles dominated the race: Land Rover, Range Rover, Toyota Land Cruiser[?], Mercedes Gelandewagen[?] and Pinzgauer; other manufacturers entered heavily modified street vehicles such as Rolls Royce, Citroen, and even Porsche. Recent (2002) examples in the car class include Mitsubishi (Pajero/Montero), Nissan, and Hyundai; Mercedes, Range Rover, and BMW sport-utilities are represented but do not appear in the leader positions. Jean-Louis Schlesser builds a series of custom dune buggy vehicles for the race (and has won with them several times). American ("Baja") style pro trucks make an appearance, but are also seldom in the winner's circle. Trucks (T4 "Camions" or "Lorries") include Tatra, Camas, Hino, MAN, and Mercedes Unimog. KTM is the most popular/leading motorcycle; BMW also produces a "Dakar" enduro bike.

Sponsors
Total/ELF (Petrol distributor)
Euromaster (tires)

The English television coverage of the rally is narrated by retired motorcycle rider Toby Moody whose distinct accent (especially prononcing all the foreign names: "Schless-ah", "Shi-no-zoo-ker", "Me-oh-nee") ads to the personality of the race.

Links
dakar.com (http://www.dakar.com)(multilingual)
dakar.total.com (http://dakar.total.com)(French)



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